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Monday, April 26, 2010

Abu Yahya Al-Libi: All Americans Must Be Killed Even If They Capitulate

Abu Yahya Al LibiTop Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya Al-Libi is out with a new, and particularly grim, tract comparing America to the Bani Quraidah, a Jewish tribe that once came into conflict with Mohammed, resulting in all the adult males being killed, and the women and children being taken as slaves, according to a mix of hadith and Quranic sources.

The takeaway from this 20-page work is rather specific and quite possibly a signpost to trouble ahead. Al-Libi is arguing:

1) The harshest punishment is justified for those who ally themselves with the enemies of Islam, even if those people do not commit overt acts against Muslims.

2) That punishment, in the case of the Quraidah, was that all of the adult males were killed and all women and children taken as slaves. Al-Libi goes out of his way to point out that this punishment was meted out after the Quraidah surrendered.

3) The United States meets the same criteria for judgment as the Quraidah.

The expansion of the conflict here is in keeping with Al Qaeda's practices, although I don't recall seeing it stated so bluntly and justified so elaborately before.

Basically, Al-Libi is saying that every adult male American ought to be killed, whether or not they submit to the judgment of Muslims (meaning Al Qaeda, of course), and whether or not they have specifically taken up arms against Muslims and whether or not they continue to be at war with Muslims.

Or, to use his words, they are to be killed "not just as a punishment for the crime which they have committed in the past" but "to cut off the very substance of their evil." He specifically includes prisoners taken on the battlefield in this category, although he takes pains to say that his point is much broader.

Al-Libi makes a few references to the White House outreach to Muslims and efforts at conciliation in Afghanistan which make me think this piece is designed to shore up resistance to the rumblings from Karzai government and elsewhere about trying to work out some sort of conditional accommodation with tribal and Taliban factions.

The argument here is a shift from Osama bin Laden's earlier declarations of war against the U.S., which were largely predicated on specific foreign policy offenses. Al-Libi is saying that America has crossed a threshold and should be fought, not for what it does, but for what it is, and that no amount of capitulation is enough to end the killing.

Although this represents a serious escalation in some ways, especially as far as actions carried out by the committed AQ core, I think it could be an indicator that Al-Libi's radical constituency in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world (including his homeland of Libya) is getting tired of fighting and thinking -- however preliminarily -- about what kind of peace they might be willing to accept.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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